Would you de-friend ten of your Facebook friends in order to get a free Whopper? Burger King thinks you will. Released on Jan. 1, the Whopper Sacrifice facebook app asks users that very question. The app, from the offbeat advertising gurus at Crispin Porter + Bogusky (profiled in the June issue of Fast Company), is the most aggressive online venture that Burger King has yet undertaken. It’s equal parts humor and tongue-in-cheek malice, since the app notifies your former friends via Facebook message that they have been “sacrificed” for a free burger. Let’s take a look at some numbers: if Burger King expects to give away, say, 10,000 free Whoppers, that will require the de-friending of 100,000 people. Out of 150 million total Facebookers, that’s a paltry 0.0006 percent of users. But Burger King isn’t trying to give out free Whoppers; the Whopper Sacrifice is simply a very smart venture into online advertising.
Of course, part of the brilliance of this application is that Burger King is well versed in the culture and mores of the Facebook generation. BK knows that very, very few people are likely to legitimately use the app as a means to spitefully rid their “friends” list of ten enemies. If there is any de-friending at all it will more than likely be done in a joking manner, and Burger King wants it that way. Facebook is rife with in-jokes and customs. Some Facebook lingo has even joined the contemporary lexicon (“friending,” “de-tagging,” etc.). In this sense, Burger King isn’t actually using Facebook as a means to purchase Whoppers (since you obviously can’t buy them online). What happens then is that the app becomes much less of a standard “Pirates vs. Ninjas”-type application – a program designed to bring people closer together online. Instead, the Whopper Sacrifice is rather like a provocative billboard, one which would elicit a visceral reaction on the part of the viewer. However, Burger King hopes that at least part of the viewer’s reaction involves the purchase of a Whopper.
This campaign is textbook Crispin Porter + Bogusky – quirky, cool, funny, and weird, all at the same time. It’s hard to imagine that people will actually sacrifice friendships for free fast food. But that’s not the point, and CP + B isn’t trying to destroy the institution of friendship. They’re simply trying to get people talking about Whoppers, and they’re succeeding.